- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 28, 2019

Lawyers for Patrick Murphy asked the Supreme Court to stay his execution Thursday, saying he’s entitled to have a Buddhist minister present in the chamber with him.

Murphy, slated to be executed in Texas, said he began asking a month ago for a Buddhist minister — either his own spiritual adviser of six years, Rev. Hui-Yong Shih, or one picked by the state — to accompany him.

But Texas’s policy says only Department of Criminal Justice employees could go into the chamber, and that apparently doesn’t include Mr. Shih.

Murphy’s lawyers said that Christian inmates are able to be accompanied to the chamber by a minister of their faith, so Texas must make accommodations for other faiths or else it is in violation of the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause.

The appeal was sent to Justice Samuel A. Alito, Jr.

It’s similar to a case that reached the high court earlier this year involving an Alabama inmate who practiced Islam, and who wanted an Imam to accompany him. Alabama had a similar policy regarding approved corrections department employees, which meant in practice that the prison’s Protestant chaplain was the only clergy approved to join inmates.

The high court rejected that man’s appeal, which came late in the process, though legal experts said they expected the court would eventually have to grapple with the broader religious freedom issues.

Murphy was convicted of killing a police officer in 2000, according to news reports. He is set to be put to death after 6 p.m. central time Thursday evening.

The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, a legal advocacy organization, filed a friend of the court brief in defense of Murphy, saying one’s ability to have a faith adviser present at death is a century old practice.

“The Founders would not have recognized a Free Exercise Clause that did not ensure a man’s last moments included the opportunity to make peace with his faith,” Becket’s brief argues.

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